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France to launch large-scale trial of school uniforms

Experiment will be carried out to see what changes this may bring without any cost to parents, says minister

Some people believe that the wearing of uniforms is a vector of equality Pic: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock

A "large-scale experiment" into school uniforms is to be set up across a number of schools in France, it has been announced.

Minister of Education Gabriel Attal says he wishes to see whether this will create “results in terms of school environment and in terms of raising the level of our pupils". 

Currently, the French national school system does not require pupils to wear uniforms, unlike many private establishments, such as military schools, and schools in overseas French departments.

The minister, speaking on Wednesday (November 6), said he was divided on the issue, and not convinced it would solve the problems in schools but is willing to try the experiment. 

"I am working with the local authorities concerned so that the experiment can be carried out without any out-of-pocket costs for the families concerned," he said.

Decide on a scientific basis 

This move comes as a major international study shows French schools are falling behind with a marked decline in maths, reading, writing and science.

Read more: French schools falling further behind, shows major new study

The goal of the experiment is to measure the impact of pupils wearing uniforms on the issues of secularism, bullying and authority as well as seeing if it improves performance. 

"If it is effective, we can have a real debate on the introduction of uniforms in France, but at least it will be done on a scientific basis," Mr Attal added.

The minister announced that more details will be unveiled before the holidays at the end of the year.

A way to prevent prejudice?

Some parents oppose the idea saying they are concerned about the price, which would arguably prevent public schools from being free. 

However others say it imposes equality and creates a community around the school.

Read more: Secondhand uniforms can still create equality in French schools

The government has clamped down on religious items such as turbans, Islamic veils, crosses and kippahs since 2004 being worn in schools.

On August 27, Mr Attal, extended the ban to include abayas, a loose, full-length dress traditionally worn in North Africa and the Middle East.

School uniform in France

The question of wearing uniforms in schools has been debated for a long time in France, although it has never been compulsory or a law in the country. 

Wearing smocks was once widespread to protect clothes from stains from fountain pens, but by the end of the 1960s, with the arrival of the ball point pen and low-cost clothing, pupils stopped wearing these.

Nowadays they can typically wear whatever they like within certain school rules. 

However, according to a poll conducted by CSA, 60% of the French are in favour of children wearing uniforms. 

This was an online poll of 1,010 people aged 18 and above performed between January 10 and 11 2023.

Read also

Change to France’s school holiday zone system under review

Why bic pens pose a problem to teachers in France as schools restart

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